A court in eastern Pakistan’s Punjab province has finally ordered the release of a 13-year-old Christian girl who was abducted, forced to marry one of her kidnappers, tortured and chained up in a cattle pen for up to five months.
A session court in Faisalabad city on Tuesday allowed Farah Shaheen, who had been living in a shelter house as per earlier court order, to rejoin her family, according to UCA News.
The court order comes weeks after police dropped charges against Khizar Hayat, a 45-year-old Muslim man, and his two associates after Farah, who was abducted by them from Faisalabad last June, testified she willingly married Hayat, The U.K. Times reported at the time, adding that police ignored her parents’ complaint that she had been abducted and tortured.
“She wants to live with her father. Since the marriage between Farah Shaheen and Khizar Hayat has not been registered and nikah (marriage contract) has not been verified by the Union Council concerned, she cannot be kept in Dar ul Aman (shelter house) for an indefinite period,” Judge Rana Masood Akhtar was quoted as saying.
“The petitioner, father of Mst. Farah Shaheen, also has given an undertaking that he and his family members shall properly take care of Mst. Farah Shaheen and that they will not allow anybody else to cause any harm to her life and liberty,” the judge added.
Bishop Iftikhar Indrias of the Apostles of Gospel Ministries International, who helped Farah’s family with legal aid, is demanding that Hayat be arrested.
“We thank all Christians for raising their voice against the insult and injustice. We shall make this success a reference to stop forced conversions of our daughters. It is our responsibility as their parents and protectors to ensure their security and support such victims of violence upon their return back home,” Indrias was quoted as saying.
An earlier police report suggested the girl was aged 16 or 17, investigating officer Musaddiq Riaz claimed, while the birth certificate confirmed her age was 12 at the time of her abduction.
On Dec. 5, police rescued Farah, who had marks of abuse on her body, and a local court later sent her to a shelter home, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.
“Officials first brought (Shaheen) to the police station after negotiations with the criminals,” Lala Robin Daniel, a local activist, told UCAN earlier. “Her ankles and feet were wounded. They were bandaged at the police station. She was in trauma and couldn’t talk about the torture.”
Farah's parents said she was forcefully married to Hayat and converted to Islam.
“(She) has told me she was treated like a slave,” the girl’s father has said, according to The Daily Mail. “She was forced to work all day, cleaning filth in a cattle yard. 24X7, she was attached to a chain.”
“Her marriage, forceful conversion, and injured feet speak of the horror,” Daniel wrote on social media at the time. “Underage girls from religious minorities are unsafe due to faulty and incomplete lawmaking. Police, judiciary, and weak laws make fun of poor parents.”
A 2014 study by The Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan estimated that about 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community were abducted, forcibly married to their captor, and forcibly converted to Islam every year.